Finding readers who must be yours


I HAVE BEEN WRACKING MY BRAIN since I got the idea for Pride’s Children. In the year 2000.

Because marketing is consumed by demographics – to women of a certain age and income; to children; to men who own pickup trucks.

From SnapSurveys:

Demographics are characteristics of a population. Characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, education, profession, occupation, income level, and marital status, are all typical examples of demographics that are used in surveys.
Mar 12, 2012
Birds of a feather flock together.

I need a different kind of marker

Something that has to do with the kind of reader people are, and the type of books they pick on their own.

When I get the chance to ask, my readers usually have some of the following features:

  • They have read a lot, starting in childhood
  • They have read classics – for pleasure – and were not forced to; books such as Jane Eyre and A Christmas Carol and Pride and Prejudice
  • They’ve read good contemporary books of their times – Rebecca and The Thorn Birds and Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird and The Complete Sherlock Holmes
  •  Their repertoire often includes good SF and Fantasy, such as The Lord of the Rings and Dune and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and On the Beach

But some of my best reviews have come from older men, and some of my best readers are young women, and my incredibly supportive fan is Marian Allen who is in my general age group.

How on Earth do you call that a demographic?

There are hints

One reader told me he had learned a lot about himself, and would be rereading.

Another has told me he was surprised to be pulled in.

Others have mentioned liking my writing.

Someone wrote:

you have managed the best instance of “the story is not finished, but this segment of it feels finished” that I have ever encountered

Many start, and put it off because they find a density they want to read slowly – and I wonder if they ever get back.

My return visit had me entrapped in Prides Children and I haven’t GOT TIME, but maybe just a little more…supper time… must go…one more section… but just wanted to say its VERY GOOD, and what an ironic and sharp eye you have for le mot juste, and the silence pregnant. Very enjoyable, no sign of the damaged mind but I resonate strongly with your main character’s memory lapses and undefined connections of perfect lucidity once connected for the more lumpen Elise! I have not yet reached her TV appearance but it beckons. [italics mine – the TV appearance is very early in PURGATORY!]

I poke at it with the damaged mind

I wonder why there hasn’t been more recommending to friends who read.

I wonder when Elena Ferrante’s mystique is debunked, and suddenly her work isn’t as good.

I wonder when there should be a niche for disabled/chronically ill authors, with a little bit of slack from the establishment – and they tell me they are not taking indie self-published authors, while there are few in the category who get published by the traditional publishers. A pro bono approach I could submit to.

I wonder when I watch younger, healthier authors putting gobs of time into keywords and marketing and boxed sets and book magnets and publishing more books – and there is no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I can do any of that.

In this, my model, if you like, is John Kennedy Toole, who didn’t do any of that, because he was dead. A Confederacy of Dunces was pushed by his mother after he died by suicide, and won a Pulitzer after it attracted (was forced onto) the attentions of an influential writer, Walker Percy.

I need a Mentor, an Influencer, someone with a Voice

And haven’t a clue how to get one.

I need to ‘go viral,’ when that is as intangible as you can get.

I need to do only the writing, and am told over and over that all authors want this, and should get off their duffs.

I think I would do a great deal better on the writing side if I had some confidence in ideas which might pan out – and that I could actually do.

I listen, I learn, I think. I follow, I read, I think more.

I’ll figure it out – or literally die trying. Morbid? Realistic?

I’ve started a hundred tiny brush fires, at great expense in time and effort. One of these days, one will burn down the fences.

And if you’re in one of my categories – or can add to that list – please let me know.

Thanks to Stencil for the ability to make graphics.

Also let me know if WordPress is causing you grief by putting in ads; supposedly the ones on a desktop go below the posts, but I understand the ones to mobiles can be intrusive.


24 thoughts on “Finding readers who must be yours

  1. joey

    I love your writing. I fit your criterion until I land at SciFi. While I’ve read major SciFi works, I haven’t read a lot, and not the last few mentioned. In fact, On the Beach, a book recommended by many whose recommendations I follow, is another book that could not hold my interest. Sometimes even favorite authors, whose other books I devoured, write one where I’m sour in disappointment and end up giving it away or snarling when I return it to the library. I think we’ve talked about a few of those.
    Anyway, I may well click it open again. I’m a moody reader. I’m a veracious, moody reader who doesn’t write many reviews or belong to a book club or enter giveaways or update her Goodreads. I’m the writer’s nightmare. I’m sorry.
    But Alicia, you wrote a book! YOU WROTE A BOOK! 😀


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks, Joey.

      I’m not sure whether On The Beach is the kind of thing you can pick up now that there have been so many post-apocalyptic novels, but when I read it it was a plunge into cold water. And I knew the area they traveled to in the Pacific Northwest, so it was very vivid and real.

      Shute was an interesting man and writer – there is a Nevil Shute Society. His writing probably seems a bit date, and is definitely before the era of women’s lib, and his women characters would be deemed not very deep today, but… he dared to say exactly what was going to happen if the nations of the world didn’t stop playing with atom bombs, and used credible science and technology (sparingly). It had a huge influence on me. My favorite of his books is I believe his last, Trustee from the Toolroom, about a man who made a commitment – and the dogged way he fulfilled it. I’ll have to reread that some time soon.

      Problem is there are SO many books that have made an influence on me, and they tend to be older ones because of my current limitations.

      Don’t be sorry! Read what you like when you can, your way. The point is 1) to enjoy, 2) to live other lives, and 3) maybe to learn a few new things. So your list will be different from other people’s list.

      You have to remember I was going to be a physicist when I was twelve (it freaked the grownups, especially ones in Mexico, out). So the science part has always been me. And when I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the experience is enhanced in so many ways by how well Heinlein nailed the way things would work on the moon, in computers, with vacuum and with1/6th gravity.

      Every reader has that happen in the areas they know something about and are passionate about – if the writer knows those and writes them well, they will believe her. And if he gets them wrong, they’ll pan the book, and rightly so.

      Yes, I wrote a book, and am working on the next one – and all those books that influenced me, that tested things like a moral code and principles and beliefs in things that were different from what I was taught – those affect what I write. And that part is so much fun. My favorite reviews keep ending with something like, “Not for everyone.” I wonder why they feel they have to say that – and then I look at the 1*, 2*, and 3* reviews, and agree.

      PS I love your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. joey

        Thank you so very much!
        I very much appreciate you taking paths to get to your work in science. I didn’t have much aspiration to work in science beyond genetics. Due to my poor grasp of math, I didn’t have the skills to pursue it beyond high school study, but my Moo, she’s likely headed to STEM. Every time she tells an adult that’s what she seeks, they’re surprised. Admittedly, many are pleased, especially women in the sciences, but the surprise is consistent. So imagine if you hadn’t gone that route?!?
        Thank you for being a forerunner.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Still way too few women in math and physics, and it’s not improving much there. Tell your Moo to figure out what she would be happy doing professionally for the rest of her life, including marriage and kids. I’d get a decent amount of background computer programming experience – that always scales well.

          Here’s how it worked: if a guy got a C in an engineering class, he signed up for the next one, and checked that one off. If a girl got a C, she let it reinforce every negative thing everyone had ever said about her doing math and science – and quit.

          A C in a class is just a C in a class. Keep going.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. joey

          The only C she’s had in the last few years was in geometry. (Which, ironically, my brain likes just fine.) But I’ve heard it said few people are aces at both geometry and algebra, and I expect with her return to algebra this year, the As will return. She really enjoys biomed. But she’s only a sophomore, lots of things to try on still 🙂
          Whatever she chooses, she won’t be deterred by what other people think.


  2. Liz

    Hey Alicia! Writing is the easy part of being an author, that’s for sure. I’ve learned that the only way for me to get my books out to readers is to first know who they are. Who is most likely to pick up my book? And once I know who they are, what they like, what they do for a living or as a hobby, and where they hang out, then I know how to target my marketing and promotional efforts.

    This is a great podcast/post that talks about that:


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      That’s the whole point of this post – the common ways of identifying an ‘ideal reader’ and then marketing to them don’t work for mainstream fiction, especially when most of those readers refuse to even look at indie (and here readers includes bloggers and professional reviewers and such).

      I’m not worried about it too much now – the writing, and getting things just right, is more important now. I’ll find something that works when the trilogy + prequel story are finished.

      I just like to complain every once in a while!


  3. marianallen

    Awwwwww. Thanks for the shout-out. When I read about people not buying/reading your book, I think, “Wow. Sucks to be them.” PC:P is freakin’ BRILLIANT. Food for the mind and food for the heart. A thinking person’s “romance”. “Love story” is exactly what it is–among other things.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Wouldn’t have made it through many of the tight places without you.

      Right now, mastering my body and mind for long enough to write every day is a major battle. I keep trying things – and hoping research will make all these adjustments unnecessary.

      I got the first one done, and I will get the next two books out, God willin’ and the crick don’t rise.

      It wouldn’t hurt to pray.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lloyd Lofthouse

    I do not know if this will help, but, I have only been fortunate enough to have one of the four books I have published do well.

    “My Splendid Concubine” has sold 24,474 copies since the book first came out in December 2007, and I gave away 41,243 when I ran that free offer through an expensive BookBub ad in 2015.

    What happened with Concubine has not been repeated with my other published books. Concubine has 323 reviews on Amazon.

    “Running with the Enemy” has sold 316 copies since it came out in 2013. I also ran a free promotion for this book, but not through BookBub. I used a less expensive source to promote the giveaway. 1,947 free copies of the e-book were downloaded and did not result in one review on Amazon. Back in 2013, this book was also targeted by the Goodreads trolls, a gang of bullies that attacked authors, even Anne Rice but that backfired when she asked for help from her fans and they delivered, and one of their nasty reviews is still there on Amazon dragging down Running’s average. This book has 19 reviews on Amazon.

    “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose” has sold 401 copies since it was published in 2014. I also ran a free promotion (not through Book Bub) and only gave away 1,902 copies and did not get one review from that one. – 31 reviews on Amazon.

    “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova” was sold 139 copies since it came out in 2015. – 4 reviews on Amazon.

    A couple of years ago, I decided to stop spending money advertising the three that haven’t done well and only focus on “My Splendid Concubine”.


    “The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006). The average traditionally published book which sells 3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year.” …

    “The average digital-only author-published book sells 250 copies in its lifetime.”


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I looked up ‘Concubine’ and saw that it did very well. Congratulations.

      I haven’t had time with energy to pursue, but the lower numbers sold on more recent books may be a general phenomenon because there are so many people putting books up – with only one out, of course I have no decent statistics. And I may not get them until the trilogy is finished, since it is plotted as a whole, even though each volume is complete as a standalone (in principle – in practice, if people don’t read straight through, they’d probably miss some things; I’m not a fan of the ‘bringing everyone up to speed’ school – it takes space, and my books will be long to tell the story).

      I don’t pad, I pare. But a complicated premise, and a complex background to the story take words to create.

      I probably won’t do much for PC#1 until PC#2 is ready to launch, other than the hand-selling that goes on when the subject comes up. I keep some cards with the information handy – don’t see much traffic.

      I may have already passed the 250 mark. I’m sure those statistics keep changing.


      1. Lloyd Lofthouse

        It is not easy getting the attention of readers and the methods/sites that work (go viral) change all the time. When someone comes up with a different way to reach readers and it works, everyone flocks to that site until it doesn’t work anymore or costs go up so high it becomes prohibitive for most indie authors so only traditional publishers use it.

        Book Bub started out only supporting indie authors and for the first few years, it worked great for almost all of the indies they accepted.

        Then BookBub opened their site to traditional publishers causing the prices to go sky high, and most indie authors got squeezed out by price or the fact that only a third of the books that were accepted were from indie authors and the rest went to traditional publishers.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Then you have to stand out some way that is hard to imitate quickly – and be the first, or the first good one, in some situation.

          ‘Write a good book’ isn’t as easy as it sounds.


        2. Lloyd Lofthouse

          I agree, Writing a good book is not enough. Readers have to know a good book exists before they read it.

          Sort of like: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”


  5. Lloyd Lofthouse

    Currently, the best way to reach an audience of targeted readers interested in specific genres is through the following sites. Just follow the directions on the application forms for requesting an ad.

    Amazon ads (I have been using this one for the last couple of years with mixed results. Sometimes incredible and other times slow) HINT: focus on pay per click and do not buy a specific number of ads like 60,000 ads for a $1,000. There are two choices. I’ve tried both and the only that has worked for me is the one where you pay per click.

    Book Bub promo or ads (I’ve used both, the promos three times with incredible results that earned enough back from sales to more than pay for the price. I ran a BB ad once without good results but I plan to try again.
    I have sold literally thousands of books through the three BookBub promos back in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

    Book Bub rejects about 75-percent of the requests for a promotion but does not reject running ads. But the ads do not deliver as well as a promotion does.

    Goodreads (many of the readers that belong to this site are avid readers — but I haven’t used this one yet)

    Facebook Carousel Ads (I haven’t used this one yet, but have heard good things from other authors)

    I have also bought ads through these reader book club sites and had modest returns. The sales seldom pay for the ads but they do generate some sales. Eventually, I will be running ads on some of these again.


    Bargain Booksy


    World Lit Café
    PLEASE NOTE: Submissions must be received TWO DAYS PRIOR to the promotion AND your PRICE MUST be changed and in effect by 9:45pm EST the THURSDAY prior to your event.

    Choosy Bookworm

    Riffle Select

    Riffle Select

    The eReader Café

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks, Lloyd. Thanks for your long and detailed comment. It’s a lovely list, many of the items on which I have already tried.


      I really don’t think my kind of fiction readers get their book suggestions this way, and that’s the problem. Mine are a skittish bunch. They usually hate, not the concept of indie or self-published, but their perception of the quality of it.

      I have a tendency to attract Romance readers – who then hate me, and leave nasty reviews – because (shhh!) Pride’s Children IS a love story. And NOT a Romance.

      Lowering my price (I’ve actually done 0.99) didn’t work. So doing that and advertising I’m doing that didn’t work.

      I’m the Ugly Duckling – I don’t write to genre conventions, and the above all attract genre readers looking for bargains to feed their habit. They are already served well by those who WRITE genre. And follow the mass marketing suggestions, have the first novel in a series cheap or permafree, and all the other suggestions for indie marketing that have become canon.

      My points:
      1) I don’t have the energy to follow the methods, and
      2) when I have made the huge effort to follow these methods, I fail.

      Nope. I need something very different.


      1. Lloyd Lofthouse

        The road to success is littered with failures.

        The key is to not let the failures stop you.

        My biggest break was when i offered “My Splendid Concubine” free through BookBub and I paid $700 for that give-away promotion that resulted in more than 40 thousand downloads and almost 300 reviews on Amazon that were 80 percent positive (four or five-star reviews)


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          You have normal energy. Your brain works on a regular basis. You are not chronically ill. You have an incredible amount of drive. I admire that, cannot duplicate it in the tiniest amount. My path cannot be yours.

          I can’t fault what you do. IF you read Pride’s Children, you MAY understand more – as one of the points is to write a main character with a major chronic illness as an aspiring, creative human. Let me know if you’d be open to reading; I’m happy to send someone like you an electronic ARC in your preferred format.

          My best success so far, for readers and reviewers, has been hand-selling to people on Goodreads and other sites who write the kind or reviews I need: thoughtful, insightful, deep, and targeted. I Compare books and Follow reviews, and write personal emails with about a 50/50 success rate. It is VERY slow for me.

          It’s not even the money.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Lloyd Lofthouse

          I stopped reading electronic books years ago. I gave it a try for a few years and got tired of the software updates and having to plug in the e-reader when the battery was low.

          These days I only read books printed on paper that do not need software updates and have no batteries to recharge.

          Liked by 1 person

Comments welcome and valued. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.